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Posted: Monday, July 9, 2007 11:00 pm

It may be early into summer, every student's official sabbatical from thinking about, caring about or worrying about education, but for high school upperclassmen the time is right to start thinking about college. Starting as early as July and August, experts say students would do well to start setting a schedule that begins with checking out prospective campuses. Dr. Raymond Huntington, founder of the Huntington Learning Center and an expert in ACT and SAT test preparation, said laying out a college-centric calendar for the rest of the year can keep higher-learning hopefuls focused and on the right track. "If you're going to be a junior or senior in the fall, you might already have some prospective colleges in mind," Huntington said. "If so, you need to pay a visit to these schools in person. "While the best time to visit a campus is during the school year, when student activities are under way, many students may only have time to do this during the summer months, particularly if they have to travel to a school in a different state. If you're one of them, make sure you contact the school ahead of time to find out which activities are in session and to arrange your tours." September and October, Huntington said, is for testing. "In September, sophomores and juniors should register to take the PSAT," he said of the pre-SAT. "Seniors who have not taken the SAT or ACT (or those who want to take them again in hopes of higher scores) should sign up for the SAT Reasoning Test and/or SAT Subject Tests, which should be taken in October and November, or the ACT, which should be taken in September or October." October is a good time to visit college fairs and start getting things like character recommendations and references in order for schools that might ask for them. It's also the month to start thinking about financial aid, if necessary. "In November, all students in need of financial aid should be searching for grants, scholarships and work-study programs, with help from counselors and other sources," Huntington said. "If you're hoping for federal aid, you'll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid." Before the holidays hit, the results of PSATs and entrance exams should come back and be looked over. "Review the results carefully to determine the skills and knowledge that you need to strengthen prior to taking the ACT or SAT," Huntington said. "If you're planning to take the ACT in February you should register now. "If you're a senior, make sure you send your official test scores to the colleges and universities you're considering. " The fun doesn't stop there, of course, but it certainly lays the groundwork for avoiding a safety school. "While it's easy to become overwhelmed with the college preparation process, being well-organized and well-informed will lessen the pressure considerably," Huntington said. Month-by-month college planning • July and August: Juniors and seniors should visit potential campuses, especially those out-of-state. • September: Sophomores and juniors should register for the PSAT. Seniors who haven't taken the SAT or ACT should register to do so and make sure they have all of the applications for targeted schools and the forms needed for financial aid. • October: Attend college fairs. • November: Start seeking grants; check with counselors and Web sites like National Research Center for College and University Admissions (www.nrccua.org) and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (www.nacacnet.org). If necessary, fill out the FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov). • December: Sophomores and juniors should review PSAT results; seniors should send SAT and ACT results to schools. • January and February: Continue visiting potential campuses now that classes are in full swing. If you've already completed your FAFSA, you might receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in February, so check it for errors. • March and April: Sophomores should register for the June SAT Subject Tests. Juniors should register for the May or June SAT Reasoning Test and/or the May/June SAT Subject tests. Seniors should be reviewing college acceptances and financial aid awards. • May and June: Sophomores should be thinking about summertime activities that will build skills suited to the academic tracks or careers they're considering. Juniors should be looking at activities that strengthen their academic records. Seniors should decide by May 1 which college they want to attend. Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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